34: Food Allergy Awareness

Any kind of holiday or occasion involving food is a high alert time for food allergies. Near and dear to my heart is the issue of food allergies. Our daughter and my brother have life-threatening food allergies that require planning, research, and prevention. The key to success in not having an emergency room visit, or worse, is to plan your food. Pack snacks, safe desserts, and other food options if you are uncertain about the ingredients or preparation conditions of food you will encounter.

Here are some potentially deadly items for peanut- and nut-allergic people:

  • pies (a pumpkin pie might seem okay, but it might use pecan flour in the crust!)
  • anything prepared in a kitchen containing nuts or peanuts (past and present)
  • processed baked goods
  • all bakery items
  • anything on a buffet where a nut item is also located (cross-contamination)

At parties with lots of holiday foods, make sure you only drink from your glass. Again, cross-contamination is possible and occurs in drinks. Eat using only your utensils from your plate. If it is possible to go first in a buffet situation, do that and try not to make a second pass. Cross-contamination covers a picked-over buffet.

Remember to make sure your Epi-Pens are current. If you need a refill, take care of it. While you’re doing that, review all of your labeling and contact information on emergency medicines and update it. We keep our Epi-Pens in a red, insulated bag that has been clearly labeled with Sharpie with our contact information and medical information. Inside that bag, we also keep Benadryl Strips and an Albuterol inhaler. The Epi-Pens are also in their own plastic duo-case that is also labeled very clearly.

If you are hosting an children’s event, please have your food clearly labeled and any nut items out of reach of small children, in particular. Children under 3 years of age should not have any peanut or nut items at all, so keep that in mind, too.

In the past, I think of Christmas with nut goodies of all kinds playing major roles, but now it’s a little different. Making safe desserts to give and take has become a tradition in its own right.

Have a safe Christmas this year!

97: Hosting Christmas Dinner

Last year, we hosted Christmas dinner here for 13, and I’m not eager to repeat that until I get a double oven and another big refrigerator. Don’t get me wrong, a lovely time was had by all, but getting the meal components synchronized was just beyond my reach this time. One of the biggest issues was cooking beef tenderloin for that crowd for the first time. Lesson learned? Don’t try something new on the big day. You should have made it successfully at least once. Don’t leave it to chance.

Just like the cookie recipes I mentioned three days ago, you are going to want to do the same with your Christmas dinner menu. Start looking through your cookbooks and recipe cards. If you have new things you want to add to your traditional menu, now’s the time to start trying them out and tweaking them to work for you. You also want to put together a notebook to collect all of your information if you are hosting a big dinner. How many guests? Who’s coming? Does anyone have food allergies? And the list goes on!

If you’ve never hosted a Christmas dinner before, don’t be afraid to commit to this! There is great joy to be had by opening your home and breaking bread together. If you are kitchen-challenged, enlist a friend to help you coordinate your guests and ask them to bring a dish or two, and you order a ham or turkey done by your favorite place. In our neck-of-the-woods, we have a wonderful grocery chain, Publix, who does a terrific job with hams and turkeys, among other things. Other good meat places are Sonny’s, Honey Baked Ham, and various other restaurants. If you are a backyard gourmet, try smoking your meat for this.

I’ll be posting some great holiday recipes here during our countdown, so stay tuned and get ready to try some yummy holiday goodness!